I was watching The Old Guard on Netflix last night — junky but enjoyable and surprisingly ethical — thinking things like: ‘Charleze Theron’s career has become what Demi Moore dreamt for herself but failed to get in the 1990”s; ‘Isn’t Mathias Schonaert’s good? Why isn’t he getting top roles any more?; ‘amazing that the old guard is handing power over to a young black woman (an excellent Kiki Layne)’;’ the make-up of the group is such a seamlessly dramatised ethnic mix, unlike The Avengers’ …and so on when I was floored by the scene below:
What makes it potent and unusual is that it occurs almost exactly halfway through the film (1 hour into a 2h5m minute film: subtract the credits, and it’s practically on the dot); that it takes place amongst subsidiary characters that are given a very considerable moment. I would add that it’s in a mainstream film streaming to 72 million people and likely to join the ranks of one of Netflix’s most popular movies of all time, though that is perhaps more common than the film being directed by a woman of colour, Gina Prince-Bythewood.
I don’t find it particularly well acted, and the dialogue rings a little bit false. It’s not a patch on the Frobisher sequence in Cloud Atlas …and yet…. it moved me so. To have those sentiments expressed in a public setting, showcased in the very structure of the film the way the film does, expressed with sincerity, even if the editing gives it a witty but slightly deflationary ending…..sigh.
Moreover, as Andrew Grimes Griffin observes, ‘One of the more interesting things about it is that the declaration is made while they are surrounded by homophobic, armed men. They are supposedly prisoners and supposedly in a vulnerable position, and yet there is not only the speech, but the kiss.’ It’s almost like it makes you cry for yourself. What it wold have meant to see this forty years ago. It felt an illustration of the visual equivalent of Noel Coward’s old joke about the potency of cheap music.
And, of course, as Kieran Galpin writes.
This is not all there is to the show and it goes beyond Joe and Nicky’s story: ‘there has also been a lot of speculation around a second queer relationship woven into the story’s narrative.
Andy (Charlize Theron) and Quynh (Veronica Ngo) have very little screen time together and yet all signs pointed to something more profound than friendship. “Just you and me,” Quynh whispers while chained to the wall, ushering a reply of “until the end” from Andy.’
Theron and Ngo’s brilliant performances definitely hint at a romantic relationship, and though it is never explicitly confirmed, queer Twitter seems to be unified in the belief that they are immortal lovers.
“Andy and Quynh are a power couple and no one can tell me otherwise,” writes one user, while another candidly captions a video clip of the pair, saying: “The Old Guard says give the gays immortality.”
So much to appreciate and so much to look forward to.